Enter at Your Own Rift: Do my bidding, minions!

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|11.04.14

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Enter at Your Own Rift: Do my bidding, minions!
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RIFT: Nightmare Tide is here at last, and the one overriding thought that permeates my every gaming minute is this: I am going to get totally addicted to minions. Heck, I already am.

I'll be getting into other aspects of the expansion in coming weeks (spoiler: sidekicking is way tubular), but since this one feature is available to everyone right now and it's completely new to the game, I wanted to discuss minions today. There isn't a lot of information out there on the minion system thus far, which is surprising considering how much I've seen guildmates and general chat buzz on about it. Perhaps it's simple enough not to require detailed explanations, but there's still enough depth to elicit a few questions.

So what's the minion system like? How does it benefit players? How much money does it require of free players? What are some good strategies for it? I'm all over this today, so let's get into it!

Getting started with minions

Let's begin with this simple acknowledgement: Minions are not necessary to play the game. It's a fun little side system that can net you rewards, but since none of those rewards is straight-up gear, it's not as though you'll be at a severe disadvantage for not playing. But let's say that you enjoy fun and you like getting free stuff, which I think would be most everyone. What you'll need to do is to find a "fanatic" NPC in the main city who unlocks the minion system for you and gives you your first minion card. The nearby vendor will also sell you (at one plat apiece) an additional handful of cards. Get all of those and then you're good to go.

If you're at all familiar with any time-delay gaming systems, from Star Trek Online's duty officer system to Farmville, then grasping minions won't be hard. Essentially, you're pairing up a minion with an adventure that has a time limit on it. Once the time is up, the minion will return with a reward, although there's a spectrum of how good this reward will be based on several factors (including the RNG gods).

Every minion has a level (which goes up after earning minion XP from adventures), stamina (a resource required for adventures), and at least one or more specializations, such as diplomacy or water. Adventures have a stamina requirement (one to 10), a time limit, specialization attributes, and potential rewards. The key here is to match up specializations so that your life minion is going on an adventure that has that as an attribute in order to increase the odds of a good reward.

Getting more minions is relatively easy (I'm at level 50 and have 17 minions so far). You can get them from the vendor, from the Nightmare Tide CE, from artifact set rewards, from the cash shop, from drops, from quests, and from the auction house. Since stamina is depleted faster than it regenerates, having more minions to sub in for exhausted ones will keep the rewards flowing in.

Rewards

As I said before, you're not going to get armor and weapons and planar essences with minions. However, minions benefit your character in a number of ways. Rewards come in the form of crafting mats, notoriety, dimension items, and artifacts. If you're hard-up for cash, most all of those can be sold. For example, I got six purple-quality crafting mats that I sold for about 200 plat apiece on the auction house (which I promptly spent on more minions). And notoriety can unlock vendor options to get you better gear, so in a roundabout way, minions do help your stats.

You'll also be getting minion XP per adventure plus a shot at aventurine, which is a special currency used to buy access to the longest (and best-rewarding) adventures. After doing a lot of eight-hour missions, I'm finding that I'm swimming in aventurine.

I've been incredibly surprised how generous these rewards have been -- almost too generous -- so I'm hoping that Trion isn't reading this. I've seen a single mission result in a minion backing up a dump trunk of eight or so artifacts into my bags, and already I've gotten a purple-quality dimension key (the Infinity Gate) and many purple and blue dimension items. For the housing fanatic, it really is a bonanza. Plus, it's awesome to log in and have a ton of rewards sitting there waiting for you.

Plus, there's another type of reward that pays out in laughs. The adventure descriptions and minion quotes are often pretty hilarious and contain in-jokes about the game itself.

Minion strategy

Again, the minion system isn't going to rival chess as a strategy brain-twister, but in my week or so of playing it, I've started to formulate a few strategies on how to maximize winnings.

The first big question you have to ask is whether or not you're willing to invest monetarily into the minion system. While you can get minions all over the place, additional adventure slots past the first one cost you (in either gems or by buying a collector's edition for a second slot). Plus, the price for every future slot increases, so the fifth slot is going to cost more than the third.

Of course, you can get by with just one adventure slot, but you're going to be much more restrained and find that you'll level up more slowly with one than with more. I splurged to get five slots total, which feels like a good balance that gives me adventure flexibility. Whether or not you want to pay is up to you, although I will add that all of these unlocks are account-wide, as the minion system is shared between all of your characters.

To get the best rewards, you're going to need to be patient. The eight- and 10-hour missions (the two cards on the right-hand side) offer up substantially better loot and aventurine than the one- to 15-minute missions, so I generally try to run those as often as possible. However, quicker adventures are quite useful to help level minions up and rotate through idle minions while others are on the longer quests.

If you're gunning for six-star reward tiers, then you'll need to do as much of the following as possible:
  • Pair up minion and mission attributes (the more the better)
  • Use the highest-level minion you have
  • Go for the longest adventures (the 10-hour ones if you have adventurine for it
Also, it's a good idea to accept rewards on the highest-level character you have, as crafting mats are doled out according to level. Rumor has it that there are special minion unlocks when certain conditions are met, although players are still figuring those out.

Currently, if I can't play RIFT on a given day, I log in once in the morning and once in the evening to put five minions on the longest possible adventures. If I know that I will be playing, I'll leave two slots open for short-term quests. Having the minion system to fiddle with is a great boon when there's some downtime in group situations, and I'm almost always excited to see the icon pop up telling me that a mission is complete.

One sentiment that I've seen echoed is that it would be smashing if Trion put some work into bringing the minion system into the mobile app. It seems incredibly suited for it and would save time for those who just want to schedule the next round of adventures without having to log in and then back out. Of course, that may work contrary to the studio's intent for this system, which might be to keep players logging in more regularly.

Are you playing? What's your strategy? And what rewards have you seen so far?

Whether he's keeping the vigil or defying the gods, Justin Olivetti saves Telara on a biweekly basis. Covering all aspects of life in RIFT from solo play to guild raids, this column is dedicated to backhanding multidimensional tears so hard that they go crying to their mommas. Email Justin for questions, comments, and adulation.
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